As anyone who has ever tried it knows well, it is an awful lot easier to run on land than through water, and the task becomes more difficult the deeper it gets.  This, in that particular instant, was what Fern was discovering.  By the time she was chest deep in the placid ocean, she could scarcely move.  It was lucky that, when Jhra dropped from the sky in an attempt to snatch one of them, that it chose to target Cedric, who had his wits about him, first.  The merboy dove beneath the surface and Jhra's talons closed in the place where his head had been only a fraction of a second before.  The demon howled in fury and rose into the air once more.

Cedric surfaced.  "Seoc, what do we do?"

"See the dock over there?  Swim ta it, an' take Seymour.  You can hide under it."

Cedric took off his shoes, strapped de Winter's belt to his own, and slid expertly away through the water, leaving only the slightest of wakes.  His uncle floated face-up close behind him.

"We must distract it from them," Seoc whispered to Fern as the demon wheeled overhead, preparing for its next strike.

"How so?"

"Make a lot o' noise.  Throw things.  It doesna matter, as long as it causes a diversion."

"What if it dives for us?"

"Then go under."

"But I can't swim!"

Seoc rolled his eyes in exasperation.  "Rezyn, woman!  I'm no' askin' you ta swim, I'm askin' you ta sink.  You can do that, right?  An' you wouldna need ta swim here anyway, as evidenced by the fact that you are standing."

She supposed he was right.

The man turned away from her and watched the sky, where the demon was still circling twenty feet above them.  "Ready?  Now!"

Fern screamed as loudly as she could and thrashed her limbs wildly to splash the water.  Seoc shouted colorful insults at the horrible figure and waved his arms in the air.  It continued circling, ignoring them, its sights still clearly set upon Cedric.  Fern thought it looked as if it was preparing to swoop down again.  She was vaguely aware of a shape galloping away across the beach and knew that the horse, at least, had made its escape.

Seoc picked up one of Cedric's discarded shoes as it drifted by.  "Let's see if this gets its attention," he muttered before hurling the object at the demon with all his might.

Either Seoc had terrific aim or fortune was on his side.  Whatever the reason, the shoe spun wildly through the air and--as if by divine intervention--hit Jhra right on its hideous, bat-like snout.  The demon shrieked terribly and turned on them.

"I think it might have worked," Seoc observed, impressed with himself.

The next thing Fern knew, the demon was barreling straight for them.  She felt Seoc's fingers close around her wrist, dragging her roughly downward, and saltwater filled her mouth and nose.  Her eyes still open in shock, she watched the shadow descending toward the water.

Jhra did not stop and turn back as before.  Instead, it plunged, talons first, after them.

The End

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